IHUK Summerschool 2021

adventures in time travel re-imagined for a changed world

During July 2021, the Imagining History team led five workshops with young writers from all over the UK, each looking at a different aspect of the research and development of Historical Fiction. The IHUK team were interested in examining the broad idea of historical change and how people view themselves and their lives as things change around them.

We created the IHUK Summerschool for young Historical Fiction Writers. This consisted of three month-long online projects and two in-person writing days. We are grateful to the staff of Boughton House in Northamptonshire, The Library at Innerpeffray in Angus and the National Trust property at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk for their advice and support in setting up our programmes.

At the end of the online Summerschool projects, each writer was commissioned to write up to 2,000 words in any genre or format inspired by their research. Their writings will be published in an anthology at the beginning of 2022.

The IHUK 2021 Summerschool is dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, in the year of the 250th anniversary of his birth. The spirit of the young Walter Scott as he explored the places, people and events of his native Scotland, is re-ignited in the collective imagination of 42 young writers living in our roller-coaster world of upheaval, online-living and re-awakening after national trauma.Exploring past times, they begin to take the long view of now.

IHUK 2021 follows on the heels of Times Shifting, the ground-breaking 3-month-long project that was devised in response to the unprecedented historical turning point of the Covid19 pandemic. Times Shifting led to the publication of an anthology Times Shifting – New Voices from a Changed World.

The Imagining History UK faculty is:

  • Elizabeth Ferretti – writer
  • Stephanie Haxton – writer/historian
  • Dr Dina Gusejnova – historian
  • Roxanne Matthews – art historian
  • Matilda McMorrow – librarian/online content creator
  • Alan Caig Wilson – arts educator

We were very privileged to have the participation of Lara Haggerty, Keeper of Books at The Library at Innerpeffray.

The young writers were granted special access to the remarkable Adam Matthews Digital Archive – a library of around 11 million documents indexed and collated. We are indebted to the team there and for allowing the writers an infinity of rabbit holes down which to travel to fuel their inspiration. www.amdigital.co.uk

The three projects were:

This project is based in and around the Duke of Buccleuch’s family home of Boughton. It was built in the 17th Century and, apart from housing extraordinary collections of art and craft, it has observed the development of our modern world.

We examine how country houses contain traces of the real lives of the people who have lived here, arrived here, left from here. In the things that they touched, in what they observed happening around them and in the journeys they undertook, they played their part in making the world of today.

As a Historical Fiction writer, you seek to develop ideas based on your research that shed light on our lives now. We will send your writer’s 7 senses on a journey of discovery into how ideas and events in the world of today reach back into the past.

The Library at Innerpeffray is Scotland’s first free lending library. Since 1680 its doors have been open to anyone who wanted to borrow books and expand their horizons. And since 1680 it has kept records of everybody who has borrowed a book and which books they borrowed – an early kind of data collection which allows us to get an idea of how important books, reading and shared imagination was to all kinds of people, not only those who could afford books.

This is about books, the stories of books and the stories of those whose eyes followed the words on the page. The books borrowed from this library carry the biographies and back-stories of the people who held them – such as the ancient volume which has the worn indentation of countless index-fingers in its leather cover. Why this book? Why did so many borrowers want to hold it tight as they walked, sometimes many miles, home from the library?

If you love books, the making of books, the magic life of books and the collecting of books this project is for you. We will link you up online with the Library’s own bookworms – volunteers and staff who have spent years knowing more and more about the collections. You will travel in time to Scotland and discover the stories that surround books of stories.

Times Shifting has two parts. It is an exploration of the ‘historic’ changes that we have all experienced – are experiencing. It is also a mind-expanding way of exploring the contemporary world as if it were a Historical period – collecting data and making connections. As each day passes, it recedes into the past. Life changes and details are lost and remembered as if they occurred in a very different world.

During a series of zoom sessions, we guide you in observing the world around you and your recent experiences with the idea that you are building the thing that a Historical Fiction writer absolutely needs – a primary source for their ideas.

At the end of your explorations of now we send you into an imagined future and ask you to write looking back to the world of today as if it were the past.

The Sutton Hoo project was made possible by a collaboration between IHUK, students and staff at Farlingaye School in Woodbridge, and the education team at the National Trust site at Sutton Hoo.

The project consisted of two whole-day writing workshops in mid-July – exploring the physical, historical and sensory detail of this extraordinary historical site. Exploring Sutton Hoo is to begin to explore the origins of England. So much is not available to the naked eye – meaning that so much is richly available to the imagination.

This was the school’s first external learning trip since the relaxation of lockdown rules, and the writers took full advantage of it. We are honoured that Farlingaye chose to continue a working relationship started in 2015, and especially in a year where so much is uncertain. Our work is holistic – it is not simply about creative writing but about benefiting a young writer in a much wider range of ways. Here is a wordcloud taken from their responses on the day, which signposts the breadth and depth of their engagement with Sutton Hoo.

We are hoping that the days might result in the first shortlisted entries to the Young Walter Scott Prize from Suffolk.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: